The Justice Department, at the request of Attorney General Bill Barr, overruled its own federal prosecutors’ recommendation for sentencing for Roger Stone after President Trump tweeted his displeasure.
This indicates a possible link between Attorney General Barr and the President, two powerful positions that have historically been kept separate to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.
In protest, four career prosecutors resigned from the case.
who is Roger Stone
Roger Stone was a key player in Robert Mueller’s investigation, and was accused of trying to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race. He was found guilty of seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing an investigation.
Federal prosecutors suggested Stone receive a maximum sentence of 7-9 years, probably because he had lied under oath and threatened a witness in order to influence the witness’s testimony. He also posted an Instagram pic of the judge presiding over his case next to crosshairs, and continued to promote his book through social media despite a judge’s gag order.
DOJ response to President Trump’s tweet
Justice Department prosecutors ask for a sentence of seven to nine years.
President Trump tweets his displeasure at the sentencing request.
Attorney General Barr has the sentencing guidelines changed to a request for a reduced time in jail.
Four DOJ career prosecutors leave the case in protest.
why it matters
There is longstanding practice (since Watergate) to maintain a distance between the Department of Justice and the White House in order to allow the DOJ to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, so that its work is seen as impartial and apolitical.
Geek out on a memo sent by the White House consul at the start of the Trump presidency that discusses the need to keep the DOJ and White House separate.
Attorney General Barr overruled his own prosecutors on behalf of the President. Is it time for Attorney General Barr to go?